Beacon Power Corp. has successfully connected and integrated an additional megawatt of flywheel energy storage on the New England power grid. This brings to 3 MW the total capacity now in operation and earning revenue from frequency regulation services.

Beacon added the third megawatt as part of a planned expansion of the system that has been providing regulation service to the grid from the company’s Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, headquarters since November 2008, when the first megawatt was connected. In July 2009, Beacon connected a second megawatt, running separately on a different power line at the same site. Beacon has now successfully integrated multiple megawatts of flywheel energy storage as a system, operating on the same grid connection – an important technical accomplishment – with unified supervisory software and operational control systems.

Bill Capp, Beacon president and CEO, said “This latest achievement verifies our ability to interconnect, operate and control two 1-MW modules as an integrated subsystem of a full-scale 20-MW plant. Our 20-MW plants will be constructed by linking ten 2-MW subsystems together to achieve the full capacity. This ability to expand incrementally using 2-MW building blocks is a key technical element in our plan to build plants quickly and cost-effectively. Our 20-MW facility in Stephentown, New York, where construction has already begun, will utilize this same approach.”

Frequency regulation is an essential service that helps balance the flow of electricity on the grid, minimize harmful fluctuations, and maintain proper grid frequency. Beacon’s innovative, fast-response, 20-MW flywheel energy storage plants will serve as a type of “shock absorber” to the grid. Because of their speed of response, flywheels can address and correct frequency deviations more effectively than conventional regulation methods – and at lower cost of operation.

The constantly spinning, high-performance flywheels perform this service by speeding up and slowing down as they absorb and inject electricity from and to the grid. This helps keep the frequency of the alternating current (AC) at 60 cycles per second, and helps prevent grid instabilities from becoming costly regional outages.

Beacon’s flywheel systems also make it easier for the grid to integrate intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, whose variability increases the need for regulation. Because Beacon’s flywheels only recycle electricity already generated, they do not consume fossil fuel or produce CO2 greenhouse gas emissions or other air pollutants, such as NOx or SO2. In addition, the energy capacity of flywheels does not degrade over time or as a function of the number of charge/discharge cycles incurred, nor do they contain toxic chemicals or hazardous materials.